Preview Spring’s Most Enticing Design Books

Three volumes that Wendy Goodman can’t stop paging through.

Photo: Jason Schmidt/Courtesy of Rizzoli Books
Photo: Jason Schmidt/Courtesy of Rizzoli Books

I can’t stop paging through these three design books on my desk right now — one on the underrated artist Robert Winthrop Chanler, another on landscape designer Margie Ruddick, and, lastly, a third from L.A. designer slash art collector Richard Shapiro.

I first learned about the artist Robert Winthrop Chanler during my research writing The World of Gloria Vanderbilt. The artist and Gloria’s aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney were great friends, and he designed the fantastical flame-licked fireplace in her Greenwich Village studio. Chanler was a bohemian aristocrat, related to Astors and Stuyvesants, but lived by his own rules, hardly a model of convention. This is the first major book (out in May) on his life and art in many years, and I look forward to hours poring over every page. Photo: Courtesy of the Monacelli Press
A photograph of Chanler in front of his 1913 painting Hudson-Fulton Fête, from the same year he showed his work at the landmark Armory Show in New York. Photo: Rokeby Collection; Barrytown; New York/Courtesy of the Monacelli Press
Chanler painted the lavish murals and ceiling decorations for Mai Coe’s bedroom at Coe Hall in Oyster Bay. The mansion belonging to William Robertson Coe was built in 1920 in the style of a 16th-century Elizabethan country house. Photo: Reproduced in Ivan Narodny’s The Art of Robert Winthrop Chanler/Courtesy of the Monacelli Press
Here’s that incredible fireplace Chanler created for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney; he began designing it in 1918. The unique surround of bronze and plaster relief flames was originally painted in red and orange colors so it would really have looked as if it were on fire. The flames continue on the ceiling. The fireplace still exists today in the Studio School on Eighth Street, in the same building where Vanderbilt founded the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930 after the Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down her collection. Photo: Courtesy of the Monacelli Press
Landscape designer Margie Ruddick has been creating spectacular garden worlds over the last two decades, during which time she was awarded the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2013 and also given a summons by the City of Philadelphia due to the wild nature of her own garden. Ruddick has since moved to Dutchess County, where she can indulge her green dreams in seemingly infinite space. Her new book is out today via Island Press. Photo: Courtesy of Island Press
The Urban Garden Room at One Bryant Park was approached as an art project, Ruddick writes in her book. The challenge presented by the open public space of the building, designed by CookFox, was the limited sunlight within the tall, narrow space, so Ruddick used the fern canyons of Northern California as her inspiration. Ruddick’s mother, the late artist Dorothy Ruddick, created the sculptural bridgelike arches that offer a uniquely transformative experience in the heart of midtown Manhattan. Photo: Margie Ruddick/Courtesy of Island Press
Ruddick’s reimagining of Queens Plaza in New York is nothing short of miraculous in an area of elevated trains and traffic congestion. Ruddick used recycled pieces of the old pavement, and designed new pavers so that water could infiltrate the vegetation. It has an organic look to it — as if the stones have always been there. Photo: Margie Ruddick/Courtesy of Island Press
A private-feeling pond at the Living Water Park in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. Photo: Jason Bregman. Courtesy of Island Press
I did not know designer, collector and antiques dealer Richard Shapiro before I opened his book (which came out on Tuesday), but it didn’t take long for me to be swept away imagining life in the remarkable rooms and gardens of his residences in Los Angeles and Malibu. Photo: Jason Schmidt/Courtesy of Rizzoli Books
When I asked Shapiro what had inspired him to create these homes, he told me that as a contemporary-art collector, he’s gotten to know dealers and visit dealers’ and other collectors’ homes around the world. “I have an almost-photographic memory,” he says. “It is never about decorating or design; it is really about capturing the aura of a place. I absorb places that make an impression on me.” Here, the stunning double-height living room of his Malibu home. Photo: Jason Schmidt/Courtesy of Rizzoli Books
“I live most of the time in L.A,” Shapiro says. “Malibu is more spartan. It is desolate out here, and empty of people.” But not empty of cozy, beautiful places to curl up and enjoy nature and a fire outside, as seen here. This house was built from scratch referencing a fantasy ruin in Tangier. Photo: Jason Schmidt/Courtesy of Rizzoli Books
Shapiro’s Los Angeles bedroom is the most rarefied of man caves. He took an existing 1920s homeand reimagined it as a 17th-century Tuscan villa. Shapiro writes in his book, “The houses reinvent the ambience of distant places I love … They are built to deceive, but it is a romantic deception. There, in either house, you really do live in a different and better world.” Photo: Jason Schmidt/Courtesy of Rizzoli Books